- Pain or discomfort of the throat
- Made worse when swallows
- Rare symptom before 2 years old
- Not caused by an injury to the throat
Causes of Sore Throat
- Colds. Most sore throats are part of a cold. In fact, a sore throat may be the only symptom for the first 24 hours. Then a cough and runny nose occur.
- Viral Pharyngitis. Some viruses cause a sore throat without other symptoms. A cough and runny nose don't become part of the illness. An antibiotic won't help.
- Strep Pharyngitis. Group A Strep is the most common bacterial cause. It accounts for 20% of sore throats without any cold symptoms. Pus is seen on the tonsils. Peak age is 5 to 15 years. An antibiotic is helpful.
- Mono. Infectious Mono mainly occurs in teens and young adults. The main symptoms are sore throat, fever and widespread swollen lymph nodes. Like Strep, Mono also has pus on the tonsils. Patients with Mono also may have a large spleen. It's located in the upper left side of the stomach. Mono is diagnosed with special blood tests.
- Post-nasal Drip. Drainage from a sinus infection can cause a sore throat. The throat clearing that goes with the drainage may cause most of the irritation. The sinus infection is more likely to be viral than bacterial.
- Mouth Breathing. Breathing with the mouth open during sleep can cause a sore throat. After eating breakfast, it often goes away.
- Abscess of Tonsil (Serious). A bacterial infection of the tonsil can spread to the surrounding tissues. The main symptoms are severe trouble swallowing, fever and one-sided throat pain. It's also hard to fully open the mouth. The peak age is teens.
- Epiglottitis (Very Serious). A bacterial infection of the flap of tissue above the vocal cords. It normally covers the windpipe during swallowing. The main symptoms are severe sore throat, drooling, spitting and fever. It can shut off the airway. Needs a 911 response.
Strep Throat: When to Suspect
- Symptoms include sore throat, fever, headache, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
- Cough, hoarseness, red eyes, and runny nose are usually not seen with Strep throat. These symptoms point more to a viral cause.
- Scarlet fever rash (fine, red, sandpaper-like rash) is highly suggestive of Strep throat.
- Peak age: 5 to 15 years old. Not common under 2 years old unless sibling has Strep.
- If you think your child has Strep, call your doctor.
- Your doctor will do a Strep test. If the test is positive, they will start treatment. There is no risk from waiting until a Strep test can be done.
- Standard treatment is with antibiotics by mouth.
Symptoms in Infants and Toddlers
- Children less than 2 years of age usually don't complain about a sore throat. A young child who does not want favorite foods may have a sore throat. They may also start to cry during feedings. Their symptoms are usually better covered using Drinking Fluids - Decreased care guide.